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Heisenberg's Salon reviewed at The Best American Poetry Blog

 

Braided Interior: Dante Di Stefano Reviews Heisenberg's Salon by Susan Lewis

IndexHeisenberg’s Salon
Susan Lewis
BlazeVox Books, 2017

Susan Lewis’s new collection of prose poems engages the complex routines and the constantly shifting contours of daily life in the twenty-first century with great humor, terror, anger, and insight. Like Kafka, like Borges, Lewis explores the uncertainties that underwrite a life, and that linger in the margins of the page; from such uncertainties, and from the chaos embroidered into the antimacassars of the quotidian, Lewis’s prose poems present themselves as an endless gallery of rooms wherein one might dwell on the raging absurdities and the gentle profundities of existence. In these poems, Lewis introduces a man overwhelmed by the complexity of most things, refugees from the native urban clatter, a god of guilt trying to sharpen the curvatures of space-time, a girl who knows her waking life is an illusion, figures sidling into their lives like shy crabs, motivations stunted, discourses un-tongued, the logic of the stutter-step and the sucker punch, the language of bureaucracy colliding with medusa-headed vernaculars and scientific lexicons. Lewis’s ultimate subject, however, is the protean, indeterminate, baffling conundrum of the self, the mystery and multiplicity of our own individual discrete interior worlds.

For Susan Lewis, the prose poem provides a frame within which passionate inwardness and exteriority might overlap, exchange places, negate each other, and continue their distinct pinprick shinings. These poems take form in the interstices of desire, “caught between reciprocity & the cutting edge,” providing glimpses of a “braided interior, veiled though it remained by a haze of evasion.”

Read the whole review here

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FANTASTIC CARYATIDS by ANNE WALDMAN & VINCENT KATZ reviewed

 

FANTASTIC CARYATIDS by ANNE WALDMAN & VINCENT KATZ

EILEEN TABIOS Engages

FANTASTIC CARYATIDS: A Conversation with Art by Anne Waldman & Vincent Katz
(BlazeVOX Books, Buffalo, N.Y., 2017)
Fantastic Caryatids has two sections: a jointly-written poem by, and a conversation between, Anne Waldman and Vincent Katz. After my first read, the conversation was the one I chose first to re-read and so I begin my engagement there—to wit, the conversation is brilliant, elucidating and charismatic. I receive the impression it occurred as both poets strolled through several art galleries and the streets of New York. 
As befits poets, the language is fresh but also effective, which is always a delight to see when it comes to describing/meditating on art. For example, here’s Katz, as quoted by Waldman, on Philip Pearlstein:
AW: Live at the Philip Pearlstein show in Chelsea, on 25th Street…. These paintings by Philip are quite interesting. As Vincent, my companion on this little jaunt, has noted, the figures seem somewhat drained and as if they’re maybe overexposed under fluorescent light, as though they’re in some kind of sauna.
Here’s Waldman on Emilie Clark below; I’m a fan of Clark’s and to the extent my knowledge of her work allows me to “judge” Waldman’s take, I can share that Waldman is spot on. This excerpt also presents briefer, but apt, observations about and gleanings from other artists’ works:
[Click on all images to enlarge]

Read the whole review here at Galatea Resurrects

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C. Kubasta featured in a fantastic essay in Wisconsin People & Ideas!

 

To the Quarry, Together

When poets and visual artists work together, they negotiate a shared language. In collaboration, they explore how their work, well, works together: both engage with form and shape, utilize symbolic thought, and explore metaphor of various kinds. Materials change and mutate in the hands of artists, and often come to their final forms after many revisions and drafts, possible versions begun and set aside. Art exists in the friction—the frisson—between idea and making, in the often never-fully-complete translation between the inception of an idea (which is always perfect because it’s unmade) and the fruition of that idea. It’s a never-ending, self-perpetuating cycle that calls us back to the blinking screen, the empty table, the blank wall.

Because of this shared language and love of frisson, poets and visual artists can learn a lot from each other. I became more aware of this during work on my collection of poems, All Beautiful & Useless, published in 2015. I had begun many of the poems years earlier, and obsessively worked and reworked them. But I felt there was something missing from this collection, yet couldn’t put my finger on what that was.

Some of the poems center around a story I’d heard growing up in my hometown of Wautoma that sounded too awful to be true. The crimes of Edward Gein, a murderer and grave robber who made home furnishings from human body parts, haunted me as a girl. And the fact that his crimes had happened here (or near here, one town over in Plainfield), made it that much worse. In my poem “Squirrel Memory,” I lay out the facts of Gein’s crimes, and I call them “simple.” But his crimes, like my memory of learning about them, were anything but simple. In the poem, I recall how a third-grade classmate showed me Judge Robert H. Gollmar’s gruesome book about Ed Gein with its photo-filled “center section, glossy, split open and edible.”

My memory of this event forms the title of the poem, and comes from a later line as well: “I want to have a squirrel memory, find that year later, / like a dollar bill in a jacket pocket.” I remembered and forgot what I saw on the playground that day of third grade for years and years. As that image of the “squirrel memory” suggests, it is only in in re-finding that memory years later (like a buried acorn) that I could make sense of it. My experience, as a child, of those images, and the story they told, couldn’t be understood. This suggests one way that art can allow us to understand experience: it can allow us the necessary distance to revisit something terrifying and confusing. Once we’ve fashioned something into language and metaphor, it becomes less able to traumatize. The work of constructing the poem gave me power over that moment.

Yet, even as strong as “Squirrel Memory” and these poems other were on their own, the sense that they were somehow a collection eluded me. They seemed like fragments, memories that were somehow incomplete. That is, until I met someone who would help me think differently about my work.

• • • • •

I was introduced to an artist named Mollie Oblinger at an art gallery opening of a mutual friend in Green Lake, Wisconsin. I got to talking with this woman wearing fabulous vintage cat-eye glasses, and learned that Mollie taught art and sculpture at nearby Ripon College. As this was a Friday in Wisconsin, a small group of us adjourned to a nearby tavern for fish fry. We sat at picnic tables alongside the Fox River near a place where sturgeon are known to spawn every spring. Over napkins weighted down with rocks and tartar sauce squeeze bottles, we talked about poetry, art, and small-town stories. Mollie and I were the only non-couple there, so when the waitress was sorting out receipts, she asked if we were together. “Not yet,” Mollie replied with a smile, “but it’s going well." 

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Susan Lewis​'s Heisenberg’s Salon reviewed at The Friday Influence

 

lewis hs

review by José Angel Araguz

Drawing inspiration from German physicist Werner Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle, which “states that the more precisely the position of some particle is determined, the less precisely its momentum can be known, and vice versa,” Susan Lewis’ latest collection, Heisenberg’s Salon (BlazeVOX [books]), presents a prose poem collection that evokes the form’s surrealist traditions while expanding on its logic-making means.

One can see this idea of position and momentum reformulated in poetic terms in these lines from the title poem:

Every time she turned her back, the apartment rearranged itself. Each version created a home for another way of life.

From there, the reader follows the main character adapting to her constantly rearranging apartment, curling up and reading Victorian fiction when she “[discovers] the couch under the picture window,” and setting the next meal when “the dining table was there instead.” In a similar manner, the reader of this collection adapts to each poem’s engagement with and rearrangement of familiar linguistic territory. The aptly named “Indeterminacy” is a good example of adapting to rearrangement:

Indeterminacy

It was time for something, although she could not for the life of her imagine what. So she assumed her post on the stoop & waited for the future to declare itself. A tattered bird of dubious provenance landed on the banister & inspected her with his ancient gaze. She exhaled with emphasis, but otherwise managed to keep her preconceptions to herself. The old fellow cocked his head & screeched. Terrific, she said. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? Terrific, he squawked. How am I supposed to know if you’re the one I’m waiting for? I get it, she said, bravely extending her arm. I get it, he echoed, latching on with admirable decision. It was the last conversation they ever had.

Here, the first half of the poem positions two characters in places of waiting. There is a push and pull between interiority and meaning at work; because “she could not for the life of her imagine what” it was time for (keyword here being imagine, an act of interiority), she is forced to look outside herself. Thus positioned, the conversation that takes place in the second half of the poem works as momentum, giving the scene the urgency of question and response. The phrasing of a “tattered bird” also leaves things ambiguous; one can envision a parrot playing out the conversation that follows, merely echoing the other character. And yet, the choice to not be specific about the kind of bird it is leaves room for the fantastical. From this uncertainty, the imagining the other character was incapable of on her own becomes an outer moment of imagination via this “conversation” with the bird.

This transformation via uncertainty plays out for the reader much like the conversation plays out for the characters, strictly in the moment, in the rush as the pieces of the poem come together. There is a thrill in this kind of poetry that speaks of a sensibility awake to the materials at the core a poem, how to get the “tattered bird” of familiar language to say something new. As plot requires conflict, these poems point to lyricism as its pulse.

Read the whole review here

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GHOST / LANDSCAPE is reviewed in The Colorado Review

 

Having thoroughly enjoyed Kristina Marie Darling’s The Sun & the Moon, I was eager to read Ghost / Landscape, a collaborative narrative book of prose poems Darling cowrote with John Gallaher. They did not disappoint. Ghost / Landscape follows in the footsteps of Darling’s previous books and her ongoing attempt to recapture and rebuild fractured lives. The collection revisits themes dear to Darling such as ghosts, locks and keys, ice and fire, dreams and memories, which she shares with John Gallaher. In an interview with Matthew Thorburn in Ploughshares, Gallaher says: “As In a Landscape was something of a reaction to writing the collaborative book, Your Father on the Train of Ghosts, with G.C. Waldrep, so this new book, called Ghost / Landscape, with Kristina Marie Darling, is a reaction to writing the very personal, conversational In a Landscape. Also, Ghost / Landscape is in prose, which is something I’ve also long wanted to do.” Darling and Gallaher are very well suited to each other, their voices perfectly synchronized, in unison, as if they shared one life and story: “It matters who your friends are. This is true for a wide variety of species, because we all think we’re having different lives, when really there’s only one life and we’re sharing it.” One blends into the other, becomes the other. “We knew the house was haunted, but at first, we were unsure which one of us was the ghost. Because you were always talking about role reversals . . . It’s like looking in a mirror.”

Ghost / Landscape reads like a puzzle or mystery to be solved, elucidated. The collection starts with “Chapter Two” and ends with “Chapter One,” and presents several versions of “Chapter Two,” or perhaps the same one examined through different lenses and angles.

The reader walks a labyrinth, searching for clues, each chapter relinquishing a few while simultaneously adding to the mystery. Miscommunication, false starts, and missed encounters abound, often with failed telephone calls and remembered conversations: “No matter what number I dial, you never seem to answer . . . I tried to phone you, but we’d reached the very edge of the meadow.”

Adding to the mystery are the recurring locks and keys. “And there’s a reason the rooms were locked . . . Still, the doors are locked and no one answers when we ring the little bell.” Margaret Atwood recently shared in an interview with Grant Munroe for Lit Hub: “It’s all about locks and keys, and it always has been about locks and keys.” Secrets are fascinating and beg to tell a story; they stimulate the imagination. The speaker is unable to escape. “Are you still in Omaha and is there any way you can come unlock the door?” The locks and keys by turns suppress information—little is ultimately revealed—and guard secrets, for good or evil. They fuel the curious kind of haunting that plagues and enlivens the book—nothing quite fits or opens in the way it should.

Read the whole review here

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Photos on flickr